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Friday, April 8, 2016, 08:37

Shining through

By Chitralekha Basu

Two artists, from the Netherlands and Hong Kong, have come together to explore the idea of value in the present-day world. A preview by Chitralekha Basu.

Shining through
Gold shavings on painted and torn paper is the hallmark of Anniek Verholt’s (center) work while Rachel Cheung’s installations (right) are a comment on mindless consumption of the world’s resources. (Photos provided to China Daily)

A refreshingly understated sense of humor is common to both Anniek Verholt and Rachel Cheung, whose joint show, Double Intensity, opens tomorrow at Unit Gallery of the Jockey Club Creative Arts Centre (JCCAC). The exhibition features a series of installations by two highly gifted creative people whose choice of media — glass, ceramic, paper, gold, food grains, organic soil — seem to be informed by their desire to capture a slice of the bigger picture without being pedagogical about it. Even as the duo explores and problematizes the idea of value against the backdrop of the big themes of our times — environmental degradation, hostilities between nations, displacement and migration — they do so with less noise and more detachment, smiling quietly at the way people, including world leaders, tend to fall for the glitter, and overlook the gold.

Double Intensity is one among a series of cultural events lined up for the coming weeks as part of Dutch Days in Hong Kong, brought to the city by the Consulate General of the Netherlands in Hong Kong and Macao, Asia Week Hong Kong and ABN Amro Bank Hong Kong. The two artists — Verholt is Dutch, now based in London and Cheung a Hong Kong native — have joined hands to put up a show that transcends national and regional boundaries in terms of look and feel.

Rice grains left in a miserable little cluster on large ceramic plates accentuate the disparity between demand and supply in Cheung’s work. The artist says the installation is her comment on the mindless consumption of the earth’s resources, “being exhausted by us maybe too quickly and vigorously”.

In another installation, the grains have vanished from the plate, leaving tiny imprints, inlaid with gold. It’s a portentous image, presented with unaffected sincerity.

Verholt’s work too is about highlighting contrasts. She has painted over pages of influential newspapers (mostly The Financial Times), reducing news about mighty world leaders and weighty issues having to do with international trade and commerce to nothingness, swabbed over by crude brush strokes. Tiny squares and patches on the whitewashed surface are filled in with shavings of 24 carat pure gold.

Her theme, she says, is “the human tendency for greed and fear of lack”. “By always reaching and looking for that next goal we lose out on — what I believe is — the real gold, that is the present moment,” says Verholt. “It is in the here and now that we can appreciate precious moments of connection with ourselves, others and life.”

Both alumni of the University of Sunderland, UK, Verholt and Cheung have worked together before. While both have played up the binaries in their own works, they are acutely aware of the contrasts between their styles and sensibilities, and the impact the juxtaposition of the two can achieve.

Cheung points to the fact that she and Verholt have their roots in opposite ends of the globe. “Double Intensity can mean something similar or two very contrasting qualities,” she says, underscoring the obvious difference in temperament in their works. But then, she adds, “when having a closer look you will know we are exploring the topic of ‘value’ in different ways and through different media”.

Verholt is full of admiration for the “stunning and beautifully elegant” nature of Cheung’s work, significantly different from her own, “offering a clear contrast in chosen media, concept, color and mood”. “Where Rachel’s work has a softness and smooth finish, my pieces offer texture and a certain robustness,” she says, pinpointing the particularities in their preferred techniques.

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